John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Horse Racing and Sports, a Shotgun Marriage


For me, the following link, was better late than never. Enjoy and be proud:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbeKz6KMnf4


Most horseplayers, myself included, clamored for legalized sports betting,
thinking it would be a gateway for sports bettors to become horseplayers. With respect to that conception, it’s WAY too early to tell.

However, now that it’s here, its reception and promise for the future is being questioned in every precinct, from state houses to sports fans to sports bettors and, ultimately, horseplayers and the racing industry itself

A recent online poll indicates that the sentiment for sports betting being beneficial to racing hovered at around 60-40 in favor of historical racing over betting on sports. As of yesterday, that opinion has flopped the other way.

More states are looking into the feasibility of installing legalized sports betting, the Commonwealth of Kentucky for one. The bluegrass state is doing so carefully in the best interests of the racing and breeding, as it should.

Representative Damon Thayer, who I met back in the day when he was a racing industry intern, measured his words carefully at the recently concluded Sports Betting Symposium at Keeneland. He remains as loyal to racing as ever, perhaps to a fault.

Some of his ideas to insure that outcome appear politically savvy but in the end short-sighted. Thayer said that sports betting legislation would need to include a “competitive tax rate” to compete with nearby states also seeking sports betting legalization.

Then he wants those sports betting dollars to include guaranteed funds for breeders of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds with a possible imposition of a surtax on winnings. Thayer probably left New York before the surcharge ravaged New York’s Off-Track Betting system.

At last week’s conference, Thayer told Daily Racing Form that sports betting on mobile phones was problematic on religious grounds and that protections for horsemen must be in place, otherwise “it won’t get past me.”

Thayer envisions bricks and mortar initially before looking forward. What he may not realize is that sports betting needs to break sharply from the starting gate. Mobile technology already drives wagering, more so with each passing day.

While representatives from racetracks, racinos, marketers, bet-takers and media discussed process, it was Ed Hannah of The Stronach Group who zeroed in on the real issue facing both groups; the cost of wagering.

Hannah explained that, on balance, sports bettors understand that takeout hovers at around 5.5%. “Racing will need to examine its much higher takeout as it tries to attract new customers and retain current players.”

The consensus was that horse racing and sports betting can co-exist and that racing has more to gain from a crossover of sports customers; the other way around not so much. Said Hannah:

"People putting money in their [online accounts] will notice that difference… The average sports bettor can make a $100 deposit last much longer than the average horseplayer. We have to do a lot of thinking about takeout."

MIXED REVIEWS FOR TVG’s SPORTS BETTING PROGRAMMING


To say that sports betting programming got off to a rocky start THIS PAST Sunday would be to undersell it. The TVG Network and FanDuel Group’s two-hour “More Ways To Win” has potential, once producers realize that two straight hours of stats and opinions can’t be all things to all NFL bettors.

However, the two-part one-hour “Barstool Sports Advisors” show that starts the orgy of stats and opinions is an embarrassment, a flat-out tout show replete with “mortal locks,” the kind of tawdry presentation that gives the handicapping process—and interested bettors, for that matter—a bad name.

This three-headed monster features a loud host and louder analysts who make outrageous claims about what they know, inside information that no one else has, etc., etc. It’s nothing that even a recreational gambler hasn’t heard before.

In an informal HRI poll of legitimately recognized sports handicappers, host Daniel “Big Cat” Katz and founder/analyst Dave Portnoy did not get all negative reviews. But no love was shown for Stu Feiner, called by some “the biggest fraud” in his profession.

Feiner’s on-air persona was the template for the Brandon Lang character in the 2005 sports film “Two for the Money.” Lang, a former college football star who sustained a career-ending injury, takes a job handicapping football games.

As the slick John Anthony, played with stylish cool by Matthew McConaughey, Anthony becomes a handicapping star on a slickly produced, highly rated tip show, “The Sports Advisors.”

But that’s where this model ends. Feiner is by no means slick, and production values to this point are nonexistent. However, someone did say one thing worth hearing and remembering: “Good teams win; great teams cover.”

The show will not attract the coveted upper scale demographic bet-takers and the sport itself seeks. Indeed, it’s a waste of time. If you have respect for the process or are a Millennial with discretionary income, a TV set, an NFL jones and is seeking a sports betting educational primer, you won’t find it here.

“More Ways To Win” does show promise, however. Professionally hosted by “SportsCenter” veteran Lisa Kerney, the team is a good one. TVG’s erstwhile host, reporter and handicapper Dave Weaver and Fox Sports TV and radio host Jason McIntyre bring professional savvy to the table.

Veteran football host and sideline reporter Dani Klupenger of NBC Sports Northwest and Fantasy expert Brandon Funston make significant contributions to the program in their respective roles.

All games are covered in 90 seconds or less with updated information, injuries, suspensions, weather and the like, but it’s too much to absorb all at once. The frenetic pace can take its toll on viewers down the homestretch.

And one gets the feeling that if the program can manage to throw enough data and opinion at people on both sides of a game or proposition in two hours, and some of it sticks, somebody can’t help but look good.

Written by John Pricci

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